Long ago a plan was made but never implemented — now is the time to revive it
On a recent trip to Sydney, Australia, an opportunity was availed to go on a whale-watching cruise. The cruise, in addition to serving its purpose of bringing people in close contact with whales, dolphins and a bevy of exotic sea birds, also provided an opportunity to take in the breathtaking scenery of the Sydney coastline and beyond - the Opera House, Harbor bridge, the city skyline and much more as one moved beyond the city coast.
There were a number of historic sites, such as light houses and cliff settlements, which dated back to the early settlers. On reflection, it saddened the heart that we, in the city of Karachi, despite being blessed with such a unique and diverse coastal habitat and historic places, have not been able to treasure, protect and take pride in them.
Why can ferry rides not be organised from the historic site of the Keamari pier and take people on a sea tour to the islands, mangrove forestations, beaches, historic monuments and heritage sites that dot our coastline? It is not that considerations have not been made in the past for optimally utilising the Karachi coast’s recreational potential but plans prepared have not translated into actions on ground.
In 1990, the Karachi Coastal Recreation Development Plan 1990-2000 was prepared as part of a planning effort sponsored by the Master Plan and Environmental Control Department of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA), assisted by the United Nations Development Program through its executing agency, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).
The key objectives were to take advantage of opportunities existing in the coastal zone to develop a variety of recreational facilities, improve the condition of the coastal environment with respect to pollution and erosion, prepare plans, policies and programmes to identify priorities for recreational development and to attract investment from the private sector. The coastal zone was divided into a number of distinct recreational sectors with different development priorities such as urban beaches, future urban beaches, areas of extensive recreational use and areas of restricted recreational use.
In addition, four levels of environmental planning zones were identified to preserve and enhance the coastal ecosystems. These included the preservation area where access was restricted, the conservation area having a proposed restricted level of development so as not to alter the ecological balance, the utilisation area, being considered suitable for development and the area with limited development potential where developments in the past have caused ecological damage, such as steep hills.
There was a proposal to develop new recreational facilities whose locations were to become recreational development poles. For example, the establishment of a Clifton Seaside Complex was proposed to house a combination of beach recreation and inland based amusement activities. Similarly recreational development poles were proposed for Gizri, the inland water body formed by the Lyari River estuary, China Creek and Boat Basin.
An interesting proposal was to utilise China Creek as a pedestrian recreational attraction and another for providing safe water sports facilities by developing an inland water body - a lagoon - in a proposed sports and recreation complex at Hawkes Bay T- junction that was planned to be upgraded to an Olympic-level sports facility.
The plan offered much more, all of which was linked to recommendations for environmental improvement, financial viability with improving the quality of life of residents, such as the fishing communities, and even an institutional package with the proposed constitution of the Karachi Coastal Development Board to guide recreational development by adapting and monitoring the plan.
Within the KDA, it was recommended to have in place a Coastal Development Bureau to prepare and update the plan and to guide and inform all relevant public authorities and private developers to the goals, policies and procedures of the plan.
Much time has passed since the preparation of this plan, but even if it was revisited now, it offers significant potential and guidance for preserving, protecting and developing Karachi’s costal riches.
The writer is an urban planner and runs a non-profit organisation based in Karachi city focusing on urban sustainability issues
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2015.